John Tullock grew up on a farm in the hills of eastern Tennessee and has never lost his fascination with the natural world. He earned a master’s degree in aquatic biology from the University of Tennessee, and has been involved with aquariums, water gardens, wildlife conservation and, of course, gardening, for over forty years. His current passions include growing food and raising rare plants on his quarter acre suburban residence near Knoxville. He is the author of numerous books, the latest of which is The New American Homestead: Sustainable, Self-Sufficient Living in the Country or in the City. When not gardening, writing or lecturing, he does market research and product development for a national retail trade group.

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Dec 07
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Seed Catalogs Arriving Soon!
by John Tullock - posted 12/13/14

We are still tidying up here and there from last season's garden, and what should arrive in the mail last week but the new catalog from Park Seed (Greenwood, SC). I have awaited this catalog with great anticipation for more than 50 years, and each holiday season it never fails to delight. Only a few years ago did they modernize some of the photos. The pictures of children that used to appear, holding a giant sunflower, for example, or a really large tomato, were so old that many of those people no doubt have grandchildren by now. For sure, some were older than I am, because I remember seeing them in the catalog when I was a child.

Seed catalogs remind us that the best time to plan next year's vegetable garden is right after the holidays. Not only do the catalogs fill your mailbox, or inbox, at that time of year, but also thinking about a lush garden of vegetables and flowers is a great way to fight the post-holiday blues.

I note with pleasure that this year's catalog offers many new varieties of vegetables that are compact enough for container growing, something that is becoming every more popular in urban and suburban settings. When space is at a premium, a few large containers on a patio or balcony can produce a surprising amount of food. Besides a wide variety of herbs, lettuce and other greens are an excellent choice for containers.

Among the new cultivars that caught my eye in the Park Seed catalog:

Nasturtium 'Phoenix' is an interesting new selection with flame-like flowers in a variety of colors. Trailing nasturtiums are great "spillers" for a container herb and veggie garden.

Pak Choi 'Toy Choi' grows only 6 or 8 inches tall, perfect for a porch box or planter. Ready in 40 days, you can raise a crop before the weather warms up, getting double duty from the same container.

Arugula 'Speedy' provides another opportunity for a quick crop ahead of warm season vegetables like tomatoes. This new arugula selection matures in only 30 days.

Carrot 'Atlas' produces roots somewhat like radishes. It would make a good companion, in fact, for 'Park's Beauty Blend' radishes.

Among warm season crops, I am anxious to try Eggplant 'Patio Baby,' which produces mini-eggplants on plants remaining under two feet tall.

Pepper 'Sweet Pickle' and its hot, spicy cousin 'Cayennette' would look great flanking an entryway in 16-inch pots.

Another intriguing trend that plant breeders seem to be following: crossing two heirloom vegetables to produce a new hybrid. A great example is 'Genuwine' (pictured) which is the offspring of Costoluto Genovese and Brandywine. Expect higher yields, hybrid vigor, and excellent flavor.

We'll have more suggestions from the catalogs as they keep rolling in.



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